Taming the Delegation Monster

August 13, 2012 — 3 Comments

DelegationWe all know intuitively that good leaders ought to delegate. So when push comes to shove, why do we have such a hard time with it, especially if we are relatively new at being in charge? I want to share with you five barriers that keep us from delegating successfully and then some strategies to become more effective. But I’m warning you upfront, they aren’t pretty.

Lacking Trust

Some people won’t delegate because they don’t trust that other people can get the job done the right.

Being a Control Freak

Some people won’t delegate because they can’t stand for a task to be accomplished in a way other than the way they would do it.

Being a Master Technician

Some people won’t delegate because they are the most technically proficient person on their team and assume a task should always be performed by the most skilled person. (In fact, being a master technician is how many people get put into leadership positions in the first place).

Being Insecure

Some people won’t delegate because they are afraid someone else will do the task better than them, and then will replace them as the leader or influencer (or assume they will no longer be needed).

Being Too Nice

Some people won’t delegate because they assume no one will want to do any of the “crummy jobs,” so they just do them (all) on their own.

So what’s the solution?

The first is recognizing which barriers are true for us. Most of us have a tendency toward one (or several) of them. Once we can “name” it, we’ll be much more likely to recognize that behavior when it occurs.

The second is realizing how much it costs our team in terms of development when we refuse to delegate. Don’t think of delegation as simply giving out tasks. Think it as giving responsibility. Without the chance to champion more areas of responsibility, our followers cannot grow as leaders. This is critical, because the ultimate measure of leadership effectiveness is leader development. (Click to Tweet)

Third, we need to decide what we are going to commit to delegating – and then do it. Identify the tasks (or roles) only you can do. Then look at the tasks you are currently doing. Cut out the ones that don’t require your direct involvement or expertise.

Fourth, decide who will take over the new responsibilities – and then hand them off. It’s true that during the initial phase, things may not go as smoothly as you like and you may need to commit just as much time as you did when you were doing them all yourself until the handoff is complete. Remember to steel yourself against your natural tendencies. The rewards for you (getting to focus on what only you can do) and your followers (growing in their capacity for more responsibility) will be worth it.

Delegation can be a complex topic. What would you add?

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or   follow him on Twitter.
  • Good blog post. Now, help people know how to hand off well because that is another place where I see failures occur on a regular basis.

  • Ryan Bucher

    I struggle with all except insecurity, being the master technician. Mainly I am avoiding putting in the time it takes for the “hand off”, plus I feel I won’t be able to help myself from constantly checking in on their follow through.

    • I hear you, Ryan. I connect with all of them at some level. Trying to get better though!